The Art and Architecture of Cluny Abbey, France

The consecration of the main altar of Cluny III by Pope Urban II in 1095, in the presence of abbot St Hugh, from the Miscellanea secundum usum Ordinis Cluniacensis, late 12th – early 13th century, folio 91r (Illuminated Manuscript no. 17716, Bibliotheque National de France, Paris) By Christine M. Bolli / 09.08.2016 PhD Candidate in Art History University[…]

A Medieval Tree of Knowledge

By Patrick Outhwaite / 04.20.2016 Like modern-day students, medieval people used diagrams and images to reinforce learning and memorisation. In long and complex philosophical manuscripts, occasionally an image was used to break the monotony of reading. The tree diagram considered here was part of a tradition of visualising information and concepts relating to philosophy, medicine and[…]

Deathly Meditations in Medieval Manuscripts

By Dr. Bryan C. Keene / 06.08.2015 Adjunct Professor of Art History Pepperdine University The recent Death Salon at the Getty Villa encouraged attendees to face the reality of death and to make end-of-life choices—before reaching the end of life. Taking this admonition to heart, we in the Manuscripts Department have meditated on the greatest images of death, dying,[…]

Magic and Science in Medieval Ashkenaz

A review of David Shyovitz’s A Remembrance of His Wonders By Dr. Dana Fishkin / 03.02.2018 Assistant Professor of Medieval History Touro College The study of medieval Jewish history often yields examples of beliefs, practices, conventions or sensibilities shared by both the Jewish minority and non-Jewish majority populations. Inevitably, the question of primacy arises: which group originated[…]

Black Death Bodies: A Bioarchaeological and Historical Perspective

Flickr, Creative Commons    By Dr. Sharon Nell Dewitte (left) and Dr. Maryanne Kowaleski (right) Dewitte: Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of South Carolina Kowaleski: Joseph Fitzpatrick SJ Distinguished Professor of History and Medieval Studies, Fordham University Abstract The fourteenth-century Black Death was one of the most important and devastating epidemics in human history. It caused[…]

A Hero’s Journey and the Dance of Dragons

Initial P: Alexander the Great Carried Aloft by Griffins, about 1300, unknown artist, in the Historia Scholastica. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. Ludwig XIII 1, fol. 222v; Alexander the Great in the Air (detail), about 1400–10, unknown artist, in the World Chronicle. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. 33, fol. 221 In the Middle Ages, stories of Greek[…]

The Allure of Gems and Jewelry from the Medieval to Modern Era

Initial D: Saint John the Baptist, about 1520, Matteo da Milano. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. 87, fol. 4 Praised for their “wondrous power, sparkling light, elegant beauty,” gems and jewelry have had associations with power and mysticism since the Middle Ages.      By Rheagan Martin (left) and Levi Higgs (center) with Dr. Bryan C. Keene[…]

Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ in Late Medieval and Early Renaissance Art

Domenico di Michelino, Dante holding the Divine Comedy, 1465 (Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence) By Matthew Collins / 12.30.2015 PhD Candidate in the Italian Language Harvard University When you think of Hell, what images fill your imagination?  Your mind might first conjure up a monstrous satanic figure, and then you may further fill in the picture[…]

A Lasting War: Representing Troy in Ancient Greece and Medieval Europe

The Sack of Troy: A warrior kills Astyanax, son of Hektor, dealing the final blow to the Trojan dynasty. Image: Detail from a Water Jar with the Sack of Troy (Iliupersis), Greek, about 520–500 B.C. Black-figured hydria attributed to the Leagros Group. Terracotta. Staatliche Antikensammlung und Glyptothek München Both medieval illuminators and Greek vase-painters represented the Trojan[…]

Sicily: A Cultural Crossroads in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds

Bay of Palermo, Sicily, 1963, Samuel J. Magnolia. Mural painting, about 8 1/2 x 15 ft. Photo courtesy of Rosemarie Anne Keene A cultural crossroads since ancient times, Sicily took on a truly international character in the Middle Ages. By Dr. Bryan C. Keene / 05.30.2014 Adjunct Professor of Art History Pepperdine University My interest in art[…]

The History of the ‘Green Man’ in the Greek and Byzantine Worlds

Keystone in the Shape of a Foliate Face, about 1225–36, made in Stymphalia, Greece. Stone, probably sandstone, 14 9/16 x 20 1/16 x 17 11/16 in., 176.368 lb. Image courtesy of the Chloumoutsi (Clermont) Castle Museum, Ilia An unusual carved stone from Greece reveals the changing political landscape of the Byzantine world in the thirteenth[…]

Deciphering a Central European Plague Amulet

By Dr. Don C. Skemer / 10.14.2016 Curator of Manuscripts Rare Books & Special Collections Department Princeton University Library From the ancient world to the present, people have turned to powerful words, symbols and images as magical shields against bad luck, evil spirits, debilitating illness and sudden death. In medieval and early modern Europe, textual[…]

Music of the Middle Ages

By Dr. Elizabeth Kramer Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Music History University of West Georgia Introduction and Historical Context Musical Timeline Click image to enlarge Introduction What do you think of when you hear the term the Middle Ages (450–1450)? For some, the semi-historical figures of Robin Hood and Maid Marian come to mind. Others[…]

Romanesque and Gothic Architecture of Southwell Minster

Southwell Minster, Nottinghamshire, England (photo: Steve Cadman) By Valerie Spanswick / 08.08.2015 Freelance Writer, History of Art and Architecture Southwell Minster in Nottinghamshire, England, is not as famous as some of Britain’s other great medieval churches, and neither is it as large. However, it presents superb examples of both Romanesque or Norman and Gothic architecture in a building[…]

A Classical Architectural Revival in the Palatine Chapel at Aachen

Map with present-day nations By Dr. Jennifer Awes-Freeman / 08.08.2015 Visiting Assistant Professor of Art History and Religious Studies University of St. Thomas Carolingian art and the classical revival The Palatine Chapel at Aachen is the most well-known and best-preserved Carolingianbuilding. It is also an excellent example of the classical revival style that characterized the architecture of Charlemagne’s reign. The[…]

The Röttgen Pietà – A Medieval Shift in Iconic Representation

Röttgen Pietà, c. 1300-25, painted wood, 34 1/2″ high (Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn) By Dr. Nancy Ross / 12.19.2016 Assistant Professor of Art History Dixie State College Utah An emotional response It is hard to look at the Röttgen Pietà and not feel something—perhaps revulsion, horror, or distaste. It is terrifying and the more you look at it, the more[…]

A Brief History of the Crusades

Knight, Psalter, with litany, prayers and Easter tables (The “Westminster Psalter”), c. 1200, f. 220 (British Library) By Dr. Susanna A. Throop / 08.08.2015 Assistant Professor of Art History Ursinus College What Were the Crusades? What comes to mind when you think of the crusades? Earnest and alarmingly buff knights (in shining armor, of course)[…]

Medieval Pilgrimage Routes and the Cult of the Relic

Basilica Ste-Madeleine, Vézelay, France, dedicated 1104 (photo: Dr. Steven Zucker, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) By Christine M. Bolli / 08.08.2015 PhD Candidate in Art History University of California, Santa Barbara The end of the world Y2K. The Rapture. 2012. For over a decade, speculation about the end of the world has run rampant—all in conjunction with[…]

Medieval and Early Modern Warfare and Cultural Transfer, 1450-1789

By Dr. Aaron Graham / 09.22.2015 Professor of History University College London Abstract Warfare was one of the few experiences between 1453 and 1789 that almost every European had in common. Although new causes and technologies emerged during this period there were also strong continuities, and although it caused death and destruction warfare could also[…]

Fairies and Pagan Mythologies in the Medieval Spanish Ballad

Modern rendering of a tree fairy By Dr. David A. Wacks / 05.24.2017 Professor of Spanish Department of Romance Languages University of Oregon It is well known that many pre-Christian beliefs and practices survive some fifteen hundred years after the Christianization of the Iberian Peninsula (see my earlier post on Asturian mythology). Some of these have been[…]

A Tantalizing Find from the Jews of Medieval Afghanistan

A letter in Judeo-Persian dealing with financial and family matters / Afghan Genizah collection at the National Library of Israel via Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Samuel Thrope / 01.07.2016 Writer and Translator Based in Jerusalem In 1946, the French philologist André Dupont-Sommer published the first Jewish tombstone inscription from Firozkoh in Afghanistan. Dated between the[…]

Classicism and the Early Middle Ages

The Mildenhall Treasure, fourth century C.E. (The British Museum) (photo: Estel, CC BY-SA 3.0) By Dr. Diane Reilly / 06.14.2017 Associate Professor of Art History, Department Chair Indiana University In 1942 a farmer plowing a field in the East of England unearthed a substantial hoard of Roman silver (beginning in the 1st century parts of Britain were conquered by[…]

Queen Isabella and Late Medieval Health Regimens

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, ms. français 2663, folio 14v: Queen Isabella of England admonishes two of Edward II’s favourites, Sir Hugh Despenser and Edmund, earl of Arundel, prior to their execution, 1326. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons. By Dr. Richard Aspin / 01.21.2017 Head of Research Wellcome Library In the later Middle Ages there was a considerable[…]

A New Pictorial Language: The Image in Early Medieval Art

Praxiteles, Aphrodite of Knidos, Roman marble copy after 4th century Greek original (Palazzo Altemps, Rome) By Dr. Nancy Ross / 12.19.2016 Assistant Professor of Art History Dixie State College Utah An illusion of reality Classical art, or the art of ancient Greece and Rome, sought to create a convincing illusion for the viewer. Artists sculpting the images of[…]

Washed Ashore: Marine Mammals from Medieval Times to Today

Pilot whales stranded on Farewell Spit, 2015. By Dr. Ellen F. Arnold / 03.09.2016 Associate Professor of History Ohio Wesleyan University On 13 February 2015, 198 pilot whales stranded in Golden Bay on the northern coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Hundreds of volunteers were mobilized by New Zealand’s Conservation Agency, racing against time and tides to save[…]

Censorship of Medieval English Recipes

Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine By Patrick Outhwaite / 04.21.2017 PhD Candidate in English McGill University A late medieval manuscript in the Wellcome Library contains intriguing marks of censorship. MS. 406 is a collection of Middle English texts and recipes produced in the 15th and early 16th centuries. The recipes are from the ‘Practica phisicalia’ composed[…]